Thursday, May 10, 2012

Estee Lauder Azuree (original): fragrance review

There is a family of perfumes composed by the same brilliant perfumer: Aramis being the butch Godfather patriach, well behaved on the outside, dangerously brooding on the inside. Cabochard is the maternal force turning the neck (and therefore the head as well) in any which way she likes, while Azurée is the younger long-haired son or daughter driving fast without a licence. They could have been The Sopranos, had the show been more stylish-oriented and retro glamorous. Or not. It doesn't matter, we can imagine. For those who didn't know it, Azurée (1969) is by the great Bernard Chant, the guy behind both Cabochard and Aramis; a fresher interpretation of the Aramis idea given a luminous fruity topnote of refreshing bergamot, while still remaining resolutely herbal.

Chant was mad for chypres, skanky animalic or non; his Aromatics Elixir for Clinique is a seminal study on mossy herbal patchouli with a big rose lurking inside the bush. Azurée, albeit herbally green and chyprish, is softer than leathery Bandit and lacks the acid green bite of the quinolines that compose the latter's leather note, thus making it more approachable, if largely unsung.

The zeitgeist and the image 

Azurée is unsung because it's an atypical Lauder fragrance. Usually big, expansive and highly floral femme in a very American way, Lauder fragrances are of a routinely high standard, yet of a somewhat "mainstream" image that belies their quality. It's all down to advertising and positioning; the repeat customer of Lauder (in makeup and cosmetics as well as fragrances) is the middle-aged, middle-class woman of predictably good taste, which tends to (unfortunately) brand the house as "unexciting". Azurée however could pass as a niche offering for the customers of -say- Beautiful or Pleasures. If it were embottled in a dark squarish flacon in the Tom Ford Privée line I bet it would be hailed as the new best thing. And it would cost the stars too, while I hear Azurée will only set you back about 40$.

We tend to forget that what passes as niche today was actually mainstream all right in 1969, when Azurée launched. We also tend to forget that the Mediterranean ideal that niche perfumes today advertise with the accompanying imagery/concept (from Aqua di Parma Blu Mediterraneo fragrances to Ninfeo Mio and Philosykos) was incorporated into perfume releases then without any visual or conceptual stimulus. It's odd to think Azurée as a perfume for Chicago wearing; it's just so darn South of France (or Capri-like) in its ambience! After all that's where its name derives from. I can almost see Romy Schneider in La Piscine putting some on casually before embarking in that fateful romance. Or think the swagger of Lauren Hutton when she was in her prime.
But then again, 1969 was the time of the sexual revolution and the fragrances matched the spirit of the times. To quote Queen, these "fat bottomed girls [were] gonna let it all hang out [and] make the rocking world go round"; out for good fun and expected to be worn indiscriminately, without pretence. Azurée is one such gal.

Scent description

The citrusy introduction of Azurée is wonderfully clean, bitterish and STRONG, providing the ouverture to an aria of leather, tar-like notes fanned on flowers and herbs. But the flowers don't register as especially feminine or romantic, rendering Azurée perfect for sharing between the sexes. A peppery twist is running throughout the fragrance, stemming from the herbal and basil notes and the more the scent dries down on skin the more the herbal and mossy character is surfacing. The perfume straddles several families in fact, from aldehydic, green/herbal, woody & leather without trying to please everyone and ending up pleasing nobody; and that's a great thing!
 The herbal and pungent character makes it very detached from today's sweet sensibilities, unless we're talking about niche perfume wearers joining you, so it's advisable to limit its use to smart company and minute application (it's POTENT stuff!). Amazingly, it's also not ruined through various reformulations, so great value for money all around.

Please note: The classic Azurée is NOT to be confused with Azurée Soleil (also very good but in a completely different game) or any of similarly named "beachy scent" summer variant to be launched in the future perhaps. You will know you got the classic, if you had to ask the sales assistant at the Lauder counter to get this out of the back of her drawer, like it were illegal contraband.

Notes for E.Lauder Azurée:
Top notes: Aldehydes, bergamot, artemesia, gardenia
Heart notes: Jasmine, geranium, cyclamen, orris, ylang-ylang
Base notes: Leather, patchouli, oakmoss, musk, amber

And another set of notes, via Basenotes:
top: basil, jasmine, and citrus
heart: armoise, sage, spearmint, vetiver, and rose
base: patchouli, moss, and amber

pics of Romy Schneider & Alain Delon in La Piscine via europeanbreakfast.tumblr and habituallychic.blogspot.com


  1. Love this review, thanks! My mom's sister wore Azuree. She was a favorite aunt and a rather hard bitten nurse and avid golfer. I commented once that it was hard to tell where the bourbon & cigarettes left off and the Azuree began. I love to put on a little when I pass an EL counter.

  2. R,

    thanks, that's such a nice thing to say. Thanks for sharing too!
    It was a different time, when people smoked and drank more and perfumes were full-bodied to compete. Nowadays they're so often wishy washy.
    This one is great! Great taste on your aunt's part. :-)

  3. Thanks for the review. Azuree is in fact one of my favorites (and I am a man). And I'm happy to report that, whether it sells or not, it is now more commonly seen among the testers at Macy's EL counters, though I understand it is not marketed in Europe.

    But funny how you mention Mediterranean summers. For me, it's none of that, it's a warm wintery leather rather. But then, perhaps it's just that we got used to the shrill, chemical freshness of modern perfumes, and anything like Azuree seems dark and heavy. After all, the name does suggest that the intentions were more of the summery type.

    The name, by the way, makes it only one of two exceptions to the perfumery law that any reference to the color blue or its hues implies dismal quality - the other exception being (vintage?) l'Heure Bleue.


  4. noetic owl16:51

    Last year I went to the EL counter in Macy's to sample Azuree. The SA told me it would not be my style (too old for you, she exclaimed, even though I am in my 40s!).I insisted and she took the tester out from hiding and allowed me to sample. Because it was listed as a "cologne spray" I sprayed liberally all over myself and my jacket-big mistake as it created a migraine all day for me as I traipsed through the mall. However, for the next week I kept sniffing my jacket and finally acknowledged that in the drydown this is a gorgeous scent! I am, however, still afraid to buy a full bottle as perfume hating hubby would ban it from the house!
    And I totally agree with you. The mainstream scents I wore in my youth from the 60s and 70s were affordable and accessible(Metal,Calandre, White Linen, Rive Gauche, no 22,Chloe, Lauren, Halston,etc) but would today be considered niche and /or exclusives
    and along with that comes a hefty price tag.

  5. M,

    thanks for the added thoughts, how very interesting!

    It's rather odd it's not marketed in Europe (indeed), as it encapsulates more of a carefree, south-European ideal than a typical evening perfume for the US. Fascinating positioning.
    To be honest with you I personally find cool, herbal/green leathers very summery (I wear Bandit in a heatwave; it's very cooling and it mingles well with sweat. I also wear Gomma in the summer; but not Cuir Mauresque for instance...)

    The name apparently corresponds to the Azur region in France, so it doesn't compute not being marketed in Europe, but there it is. :-( Perhaps like with Eau Sauvage (as being personally told by an SA recently shopping for a gift) it's considered "too old/for older people"; and so on the one hand loyal customers will ask for it by name and on the other hand young ones won't be interested in a tester anyway...

    Which brings me to your interesting point about the colour. This is an article from the archives based on a true testimony. There's truth to what you say. Absolutely!
    Then again there's always Blue Grass by Elizabeth Arden; that's an oldie but goodie and still circulating. And La Femme Bleue by Giorgio Armani.
    Also looking in vintages lots of other "bleues" which are of great quality. (Lancome La Valee Bleue for instance). I guess blue didn't equate sport then. ;-)

  6. Owl,

    my what a taste and a selection, lots of interesting fragrances in your past.

    Yes, believe it or not, these daylight, essentially casual, carefree scents with their butch elements and swagger are considered "old" nowadays.
    I even got the "too old for him" line while shopping for a friend who's 35 about Dior's Eau Sauvage! (such a fresh smell)

    It's not the freshness, I have deduced, but the overall style: Sweet/patchouli is youthful, herbal/mossy/cologne-like is old. End of story. That's the trend right now.
    Which of course perfactly explains niche thinking as well, as you say: Rebrand the mainstream "old" as "new again" and you can ask whatever price tag you want and people snobbish enough not to mind will pay!

  7. Thanks for the link, I wasn't reading you back then ... Great article as usual!

    Color is the main choice variable here, also for food. Fruit in supermarkets is chosen for color, not taste or ripeness. And plants are selected to produce fruits that turn red way before they ripen, insuring that the bright red peach at the store can be used to play baseball. (And a reason why figs, the wrong color and good only when bruised looking, are pretty much unknown here)

    And don't get me started on marine notes! But Italians are as guilty as anyone else here; I personally consider the perfume Tirrenico an insult to the sea where I spent so many vacations (ironically close to the source of said concoction).


  8. M,

    you're welcome. It's based on a little girl's impression so you know it's authentic (and this is how impressions are shaped for later life)

    It's rather scary to think of how man has intervened in nature by manipulating colour (and size!!) in fruits, vegetables, flowers and animals. The American carnation has lost most of its spicy bouquet, for instance, which is a shame because it's got such a delightful spiciness in the first place; but it looks fuller than its local counterpart.

    It's all a matter of prioritising. Smell is a priority for people who have a "bond" with the earth and nowadays that leaves us in the minority.

    I know what you mean about marine scents and such a shame when they're Med-produced too! Being Italian you know full well how wonderful that scent of the sea is (not the vast ocean; our Med sea with its blast of iodine, its bright blue colour that seems extra concentrated, its friendly ambience...) It's the most difficult scent to catch successfully. *sigh*

    Perhaps if you're adventurous and not averse to natural perfumes try Fairchild by Anya's Garden; it's unique in that it uses the essence from toasted sea shells and really catches that nuance of warm sand and sea creatures. Preparation Parfumee is more of a riverscape than of a seascape, but it's very good at what it sets out to do.
    I also think Rem (Reminiscence) and Aqua Motu (by CSP) are good marine fragrances; a rarity!

  9. annemariec11:28

    I keep trying Azuree - I have a half full mini - but it's always too strong and harsh for me. A smidge on my finger tips after picking up the bottle is about all I can take.

    I'm in Australia and I never see Azuree here. And I have a feeling that online prices are going up. A few years ago there seemed to be plenty of Azuree around and it was very cheap, but not so much any more. Still, it is a bargain compared to the niche brands!

  10. Ah, the dreaded "old." I think calling perfumes "for women older than you" is one way SA's are taught to move the customer away from the classics and toward whatever chem-stew is on the Push List.

    I was at the EL counter the other day and asked to test Azuree, only to be told they didn't have any but wouldn't I rather try one of the newer ones.They did have Bronze Godess, which wasn't bad -- nice grapefruit top note.

  11. My husband wears this, and it's divine on him!

  12. neotic owl19:09

    Any chypre is considered "old" and not well liked by the masses. Case in point when I wore Pandora my hubby opened all the windows in my house in the middle of winter claiming I was inducing a migraine and my perfume hating co-worker told me that she was "choking" on my perfume. Yet I could douse myself with anything current that has fruity or marine notes and neither one would complain. Another thing, the Azuree I tried was listed as a "cologne" but had the strength of a perfume, yet the EDPs of today don't seem as strong as the EDT of yesterday (1960-1980 scents). Has anyone else noticed this?

  13. Anonymous20:35

    this stuff is awesome! and if you spray it in the air it makes your home smell fantastic.

    i just found some "tender creme bath" oil at an estate sale - it must be from early in the scent's life, because i can't find anything about it anywhere. but it smells just like the perfume.

    thanks for giving this one some love!


  14. No matter how I try I cannot like this fragrance. It is one of few perfumes that makes me nauseous.

  15. Love Azzuree..I was fortunate enough to find 2 vintage bottles some time ago..Golly,the old formulas last.One is "Sparkling friction lotion"{after bath splash] and it has a beautiful sillage.

  16. AM,

    it's extremely potent! I agree. I only use one tiny spray on the belly. It rises up beautifully. Though I can see it might be plenty for several people.

    Didn't know that Azuree has left counters and rose in price! That's sad :-( I think this happens to a lot of brands: I call it the panic that ensued with all this "perfumery is dead" bullshit 3-4 years ago to further a couple of careers at the time. Now of course the industry hasn't changed and we reap the disadvantages ourselves...unfair.

  17. P,

    correct surmise on your part, I suppose. It doesn't insult the customer (it can be even considered flattering) and allows the SA to make a more ample commission on the newer stuff. But that only kinda works in the US where SAs work on commission and with brand pushers in Europe (who get a commission on anything sold from the designated brand). The puzzling thing is most SAs gain the exact same amount of money whether they sell you something that got launched a nanosecond ago or 40 years ago. So WHY the different attitude??

    Funny. One would think that having Azuree at the local Sephora shelf in plain view here (though not on eye level, that's reserved for the latest) would mean easy access in the US. Guess I was wrong!
    Btw, I think this is the newest incarnation of Bronze Godess Soleil you got there; the previous incarnations are more "suntan-beachy" with a tiare twist. I agree that the BG line (within EL) is a good one.

  18. Annita,

    I bet! Thanks for the endorsement of male skin compatibility (who knows, I might persuade mine to wear this too)

  19. Neotic owl,

    very interesting comment, thank you! Thought-provoking.

    I certainly 100% agree that the "cologne" strength of old is totally equal to EDP of today. It's just another sign of the dumping down of the industry, where they charge $$ for what is essentially very weak juice. The jus is weak to begin with and therefore the concentration doesn't make much sense in the end product.
    Then again, I guess people lived in less "sanitised" environments back then and the heavy smoking and drinking necessitated heavier/more potent/concentrated scents? It's a theory.

    Hmmm...I can't bring myself to make such a blanket statement on the masses not liking chypres, though. I think it all depends on actual scent, familiarity with certain smells on the part of the "audience" (we tend to prefer familiar over non familiar) and cultural standards (I mean as in national attitudes towards perfumes, as in "mint" standing for gum/toothpaste for US and "evergreen" reminding of Xmas etc). I have many in the masses compliment chypres on me, which is rather unusual for the times. And they never guess what it is or consider it might be something old (not everyone knows my interest & work in perfume). They're very surprised if I reveal what it is. For istance, Niki de Saint Phalle was greeted with "it's such a fresh smell!" (positive) and Diorella with "smells so very natural, did you have essential oils custom blended for you? haven't smelled anything like it before" (again said in a totally positive way). A guy not into scent per se commented once smelling from the bottle that Mitsouko "smells like a porn film would" (neutral value in tone, neither positive, nor negative, but with an emphasis on how this is not something "old" or "old lady" but "very naughty").
    Then again, I do know of people who complain when the (very popular locally) Aromatics Elixir makes its entrance.
    Maybe it all has to do with potency? (AE being such a typhoon like most Lauder Group frags)

  20. J,

    you're welcome. It was sorely missing in so many words from the online coverage.

    Ahhh....I'm all jealous now. An oil concentration is probably the best way to wear such a strong perfume! (like with Aromatics Elixir the cream is the best way). I believe at some point all Lauder scents had their matching soap and oil for the bath (continuing the Youth Dew tradition), but it's been years (since I was a child, come to think of it) since I last saw some in actual stores. :-(

  21. Civava,

    don't sweat, you needn't make yourself like it! :-P
    I have trouble with Aliage for instance; great thinking, great concept, great execution, but it's like I'm thrown into the vat of perfume at the lab whenever I open the mini.

  22. I wore Azuree' in the early '70s, later Aromatics Elixir, Calandre, Metal, Rive Gauche-always a chypre fan, I suppose. I may try it out again as I have recently revisited Elixir and Calandre and basically alternate wearing them, with an occasional splash of Silences (discovered here, thanks!) and Vent Vert. Thanks for this review!

  23. Eva H.12:53

    Ah, Azuree.....sadly, one of those that is not working for me. It´s the oakmoss, I guess.
    It is all I smell when wearing them. :o/

  24. HP5,

    you sound pretty consistent which is always very handy when choosing perfumes!
    Yeah, that should do it, Azuree is in that ould.
    Do try Une Rose Chypree by Tauer too, it's a great chyprish rose. I also highly rec Koto by Shiseido for really hot weather; green chyprish but light enough to give a cooling effect.

  25. Eva,

    if it's the inky bitter thing it should be the oakmoss (perhaps you will have better chance with "nouveau chypres", rich in patchouli and vetiver? These are less bitter notes)
    It could be the leather though; Are you comfortable with other leathery scents? (Cabochard, Bandit, Cuir de Russie, Lancome Cuir, Tabac Blond, Knize Ten etc)

  26. I wear Azuree quite often. I am 35. To me, it is a retro, sexy scent and goes well with my preference for DVF wrap-style dresses, bold cuff bracelets and wedge-sole espadrilles.

    It is a scent of the generation before mine, but one which I am happy to receive as a treasured hand-me-down.

    The other kind-of-old-lady scent that I adore is Chanel 19. I guess I am a woman who likes old-fashioned, bold scents.

  27. Josh Bokaie22:32

    Such a great review for this classic fragrance. Azuree is one of my favorite colognes. I'm a 26 year old guy, and even though I'm totally out of sync with what the rest of my age group/gender wears, I can't help but love the stuff. I've never been one to follow gender labels with fragrance, anyway. I adore the bitter green opening to this cologne, followed by the mossy, citrus base. It cuts through this Texas summer heat like nothing else. Mind you, I only wear one small spray on the back of my neck, as anymore would knock me over. You definitely get a lot for the price Lauder sets Azuree at.

    I'm a fan of anything '70's/'80's, especially when it comes to perfume/cologne. They were made with such craft back then, something missed today. I call Azuree my Stevie Nicks fragrance...this is what I envision she would have smelled like during her "Rumours" album days, circa 1977.

  28. Meetzorp,

    thanks for your interesting comment and welcome to Perfume Shrine!
    I think we share the same mentality on this: Bold scents of the generation that preceded us are often just what's needed. Love your outfit by the way!!

  29. Josh,

    thanks for the kind words. :-)

    Of all the Lauder scents marketed to women, Azuree and Aliage are probably the best to lend to a guy. I can see why this one is such a success with you. And yes, one definitely gets their money's worth in sillage/duration.
    Very interesting connection with Stevie Nicks, hadn't thought of that, but you've got a perfect point there!


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